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  • An international school with a local feel

    We provide a high quality international education in the historically-rich city of Nanjing

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Message from Primary

It’s been another exciting month in the Primary school our students have been putting on a show with the incredible BSN Idol Talent competition and class assemblies from Years 2A and 4B. All of our children looked fantastic in their summer uniforms for the class and individual photos and are remembering to wear their hats for outdoor play as the temperatures continue to climb.

I was delighted to lead the latest in a series of parent workshops in which we share how our school takes the very best features of British and International education to support, challenge and inspire your child. This month we discussed the often-contentious subject of homework.

At BSN, we stand by eight principles of what makes homework both effective and engaging:

Homework should be clearly related to on-going classroom work.

Homework in the Primary Stage is a review of the work the children have covered in the classroom that week. The work will often include a summary of the key learning points and the new vocabulary the child has already been taught that week. Children should be familiar with the work they are being asked to complete and may already have completed a similar task to it at school. This is so that children can concentrate on “what” they have to do to complete the task, rather than “how” they have to do it.

There should be a clear pattern to class work and homework.

Each week’s homework is broadly consistent in its structure. For example, children often use the “Look/Cover/Write/Check” format to learn to spell words they have been practicing in their phonics lessons from that week. Children are encouraged first to “look” at the word before “covering” it. They then “write” the word before finally checking for any errors they have made. It is important that children do not erase any errors they make and instead highlight them so that they are aware that this is a part of the word which they may find difficult to spell at their next attempt.  

Homework should be varied.

Whilst we aim for consistency in the structure of the homework, we are looking for new ways to build in variation so that children are challenged to show their understanding in new ways. Children may be encouraged to represent their understanding through stories, pictures or other creative methods.

Homework should be manageable.

Professor Hattie states that “Five to ten minutes has the same effect of one hour to two hours.” Our teachers carefully select a few activities designed to bring out the key learning from that week. Adding additional tasks would not show the teacher that the child has a better understanding of what they have learnt, but would take time away which the child could be using to develop their talents elsewhere.

Homework should be challenging but not too difficult

Homework needs to be a review of the most important areas the children have covered in that week and we aim to select activities which have a “low floor” and are easy to access, but a “high ceiling” and so are tricky to master. As the children’s confidence increases, so they can raise the level of challenge they set themselves.

Homework should allow for individual initiative and creativity

In addition to the weekly set homework, each class sets a half-termly creative challenges which link to their Integrated Curriculum topic for that half term. These tasks are deliberately left open-ended so that children can find their own ways to share their understanding.

Homework should promote self-confidence and understanding

Parents often ask us how they can support their child with their homework. Maths is a particular area of concern as The British Curriculum approach can often seem very different to the methods many parents experienced in their own school lives.

Hattie’s research shows that the best way to address this issue is to reverse the traditional learning process and for the children to take on the role of educator and teach the parents the strategies they have been learning. By taking on the role of the expert, the children’s understanding of the topic is reinforced and they develop their self-confidence.

There should be recognition or reward for work done.

Above all, homework should be a positive experience in which children feel that their efforts are recognized and rewarded. Children are not expected to answer every question correctly and mistakes are an important part of the learning process.

Praise your child for showing a good understanding of the work they have been learning in the classroom or reassure them that they will be given support if there are areas in which they are not yet secure. Parents can can leave a written comment in the homework book to show which areas your child was confident in and where you feel they may need some additional support. 

Teachers respond to homework with verbal and written praise and rewards including house points and stickers.

Please contact me at matthew.jones@bsn.org.cn if you would like to know more about our approach to homework.

 

Matthew Jones

Head of Primary

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